After years of coming up cold, this Texan finds the perfect potato salad
As a child growing up in Texas, I encountered potato salad at every barbecue, picnic or potluck. My childhood tastebuds didn’t approve. Cold potatoes, relish and mayonnaise just didn’t appeal to me. I was a baked potato, scalloped potato, parsley potato kid.
My dad, who with his siblings grew up in an orphanage in Corsicana, Texas, was from the eat-everything-on-your-plate-no-excuses school. He slapped aside my protestations with a firm, “Eat it, this is different, you’ll like it,” with the “or else” strongly implied.
My adult tastebuds are more forgiving, but I won’t be fighting you for the last helping. My potato salad epiphany came in my late teens, while white-water kayaking near New Braunfels. We stopped at a German restaurant near the river and ordered dinner. My choices of sides mostly were foods I wasn’t familiar with, as Cajun and Southern cuisine were more prevalent in my youth. The waitress explained the potato salad option, sounding eerily like my dad: “It’s different, you’ll like it.”
I ordered it, figuring I wouldn’t eat it. It came hot, with bacon, but not the cloying sweetness I had long associated with potato salad. Revelation! Unlike American potato salad, German potato salad, or Kartoffelsalat, has a vinegar and mustard base, usually served warm. It had immigrated from the southern part of Germany, while potato salad from the northern part has more in common with what’s typically served in the states.
I still search it out when traveling in the German communities of Texas.
2 pounds large red or Yukon gold potatoes unpeeled and scrubbed
1⁄2 pound thick-cut bacon
1 medium Texas sweet onion, finely chopped
1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1⁄3 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon celery salt
Coarse ground pepper to taste
Chopped chives for garnish
Place the potatoes in a large pot, add water until covered by an inch. Bring to a boil and lightly salt the water. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and slice into 1⁄4-inch rounds and place in a large mixing bowl.
While potatoes boil, fry bacon until crisp. Remove from the skillet, leaving the drippings to sauté the onion until golden. Whisk into the sugar, vinegar, mustard, celery salt, salt and pepper until heated through.
Pour over potatoes. Crumble bacon and stir. Garnish with chives. Serve warm or at room temperature.